Zero Energy, Zero chemicals - New Pool (Owner/Builder)

mad_diy

Gold Supporter
Jun 2, 2019
9
Dripping Springs, TX
Oh no.... what did I get myself into now??...

I think its time to build a pool, can't put it off any longer. Kids are growing faster than I can see, its all for them, all of it! (maybe I will join them once in a while ;).

Anyhow.... a few years ago I accepted a job offer that relocated our family to Austin (keep austin weird). Actually, we ended up buying a house west of Austin (west of weird lol), where we could afford a couple of acres and silence in the beautiful Hill Country. I was schooled to become an electromechanical engineer, but the fate has me working as a software architect for an investment firm, Whatt?? - yes, boring. Who wants to draw diagrams and write code all day? How about remodeling bathrooms? or... wait, build a Pool?? YESS!! Here we go...

Well, I watched a timelapse YouTube of a pool build - and thought "Wow lots of work!! Isn't it just a "pretty" hole in the ground??". Can I do this??! A quick search online revealed I wasn't crazy, which makes me feel better (I still can't tell my friends at work what I really do at home). Further research reinforced my understanding that a pool build is a series of steps done by various subs, and that a pool builder is a general contractor managing entry/exit criteria for the subs.

Vision:

A classic rectangular pool, something like 20 x 40 came to mind. Depths 4ft to 8ft. With an 8ft deck all around, except the side that's opposite from the house. It will have a 16ft wide deck, covered in pergola, some counters, charcoal BBQ and a mini fridge.

Design requirements:

- No cost to operate
- Minimum to zero chemicals
- Minimum maintenance
- Crazy automation (i want an email when something needs to be done, like UV sterilizer burns out or pump flow out of specs etc).

To be continued...
 

Attachments

justinc

Gold Supporter
Apr 3, 2019
585
Texas
There is no way you can run an open system and have your water be sanitary without some sort of "chemical" (ie., chlorine, bromine, PHMB)... so maybe "minimal chemicals" but not zero... not possible. That also renders zero operational cost impossible, and water isn't usually free either. Neither is the cost to run a pump unless you have solar.
 

MinerJason

Bronze Supporter
Jan 29, 2018
256
Tucson, AZ
I like the concept and will be following along.

You're going to need some chemicals. You have a salt water chlorine generator listed, so at the very least you'll need salt and water, and your SWCG will be producing chlorine. You'll also need some cyanuric acid so that the chlorine your SWCG makes doesn't get burned off by the sun immediately. You'll also likely need to keep some muriatic acid on hand, as your SWCG will tend to cause the pH to creep upwards.

You also mention a UV sterilizer, but you don't really need one for outdoor pools since the sun provides more than enough UV for free.

With the solar energy and SWCG considerations you'll definitely want a variable speed pump. You also mention "crazy automation", in which case you'll likely want to use the same brand for your pump, SWCG, and automation panel so that they can speak to each other easily and in the most comprehensive way. The Pentair Intelliflo is one of the most popular variable speed pumps on these forums, and the most feature rich matching automation system would be the Intellicenter.

Good luck and keep us updated with progress!
 

kimkats

Mod Squad
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 10, 2012
39,930
Tallahassee, FL
Oh you :crazy: thing you!! All for the kids?? RIGHT! I KNOW who that 8' diving end is for!!! Got to shake off all of that office work!

So you want small chemical footprint-we got that! Look at this link: Recommended Pool Chemicals - Trouble Free Pool Know you will NOT need all of them. Chlorine will be made by the SWG. pH will be controlled by the muriatic acid. There are even systems that will take care of that for you. You will need some CYA as that helps the pool hold the FC so the sun does not eat it all.

Automation-keep it all in the family as Jason said. You will want a VS pump to help control your power use.

If you follow the TFP methods your pool will be as Trouble Free as a pool can be. With a SWG you will LOVE how easy your pool is to care for.

Can you leave your paying job to meet the subs to go over stuff? If so then you CAN be the GM for your build. The hardest part of doing an Owner Build (OB) is finding the subs and getting them to show up. IF you wait until the end of the "season" you will have better luck getting them to show up as they will be hungry again. Right now they may be filled up with jobs so.........

Kim:kim:
 

Geebot

Well-known member
Aug 19, 2013
851
As noted elsewhere, 2 chemicals is the bare minimum, chlorine and acid (the CYA is not really a maintenance item). You can use salt to create the chlorine but either way it's essential to maintain your pool. We keep our chlorine at the low end of the range and most people comment on how our pool doesn't smell like a pool (in a good way).
 

CaptainCannonball

Silver Supporter
May 18, 2016
269
Woodland, Ca
I’m just finishing up a solar pergola of my own and will tell you that the 36 panels you have pictured is a lot. :) Are you planning to offset your whole house’s electrical or just the pool? I would suggest before you go all out with a huge (and Expensive) system, take a close look at your efficency and consumption. (In that order)

It was more difficult than I expected to source panels with an all black back sheet so the view from below was “wife approved.” There are lots of examples online of pergolas built with white back sheet panels, but I greatly appreciate the 100% shade mine provide. Good luck!105249
 
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Bama Rambler

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
Bronze Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
Jun 22, 2009
23,404
SouthWest Alabama
Unfortunately your number one requirement completely rules out any type of pool. No matter what size they all cost something to operate. They also all require a certain amount of regular maintenance.

In all honesty, you might want to put up a volleyball net. They're low maintenance and don't cost anything to operate. :mrgreen:

If you can get past having a constant operating cost and embrace the fact that you're going to have to do regular maintenance (or pay somebody to do it), then you may be a candidate for a pool. If you decide that you want to tackle a pool, you've come to the place that can teach you how to maintain a pool at the lowest cost possible.
 

mad_diy

Gold Supporter
Jun 2, 2019
9
Dripping Springs, TX
I’m just finishing up a solar pergola of my own and will tell you that the 36 panels you have pictured is a lot. :) Are you planning to offset your whole house’s electrical or just the pool? I would suggest before you go all out with a huge (and Expensive) system, take a close look at your efficency and consumption. (In that order)

It was more difficult than I expected to source panels with an all black back sheet so the view from below was “wife approved.” There are lots of examples online of pergolas built with white back sheet panels, but I greatly appreciate the 100% shade mine provide. Good luck!View attachment 105249

Love your No-Gap panel coverage. My wife added this as a new requirement. (scope creep haha).

I have 36 panels on my design because that's how many fits on the pergola. It might not be enough, depending on how much I will run the heat pumps. If i get excess, it would be welcome to offset energy used by the house. Our house is 100% electric, no gas, oil etc. Water well, septic. Transportation is electric. Last year I put up 52 panels (all that fit) on my house hoping to cover our energy needs, but didn't quite get there (see picture).

Question, does your pergola have a slope?
 

Attachments

mad_diy

Gold Supporter
Jun 2, 2019
9
Dripping Springs, TX
Wow, I didn't expect to see so much activity. Thanks Guys! very much appreciate the input. I hope to answer all questions,

Zero cost to operate - this mainly means the majority cost of running pumps and heating, since solar array offsets the costs. Also:
Makeup water lost to evaporation - comes from a well (also offset by solar).
Primary Sanitation - UVC Sterilizer - offset by solar
Secondary Sanitation - SWCG - offset by solar
Mechanical Sanitation (robots etc) - offset by solar

Operating the grill and restocking the mini-fridge.... yeah, I haven't come up how to offset that cost haha :) Anyone built microbrewery before? :)

Question on pumps,

I hear a lot about Variable Speed everywhere. It seems I might not need one. If the pump is rightsized, and the pump circuit is only used for filtration (no features, spas etc). Then the water flow is constant, no need vary speed. The pump will run continuously and the flow is sized for 24-hour turnover, constantly filtering and sterilizing. Does filter backwashing run at a different speed?
 

CaptainCannonball

Silver Supporter
May 18, 2016
269
Woodland, Ca
Love your No-Gap panel coverage. My wife added this as a new requirement. (scope creep haha).

I have 36 panels on my design because that's how many fits on the pergola. It might not be enough, depending on how much I will run the heat pumps. If i get excess, it would be welcome to offset energy used by the house. Our house is 100% electric, no gas, oil etc. Water well, septic. Transportation is electric. Last year I put up 52 panels (all that fit) on my house hoping to cover our energy needs, but didn't quite get there (see picture).

Question, does your pergola have a slope?
I built it with no slope mostly for aesthetics, but in hindsight I should have put a few degrees of slope for better self cleaning. I doubt we would perceive a small slope. :) As it stands if it really gets dirty I can just hose them off.

We put these up in anticipation of converting our hvac from gas to a heat pump. I’m surprised that your 52 aren’t enough. :oops: We only have 20 on our house and almost break even for the year. Those EVs must use a lot of juice.
 

mad_diy

Gold Supporter
Jun 2, 2019
9
Dripping Springs, TX
Oh you :crazy: thing you!! All for the kids?? RIGHT! I KNOW who that 8' diving end is for!!! Got to shake off all of that office work!

So you want small chemical footprint-we got that! Look at this link: Recommended Pool Chemicals - Trouble Free Pool Know you will NOT need all of them. Chlorine will be made by the SWG. pH will be controlled by the muriatic acid. There are even systems that will take care of that for you. You will need some CYA as that helps the pool hold the FC so the sun does not eat it all.

Automation-keep it all in the family as Jason said. You will want a VS pump to help control your power use.

If you follow the TFP methods your pool will be as Trouble Free as a pool can be. With a SWG you will LOVE how easy your pool is to care for.

Can you leave your paying job to meet the subs to go over stuff? If so then you CAN be the GM for your build. The hardest part of doing an Owner Build (OB) is finding the subs and getting them to show up. IF you wait until the end of the "season" you will have better luck getting them to show up as they will be hungry again. Right now they may be filled up with jobs so.........

Kim:kim:
Thanks for all the advice! I can definitely use a lot of it.

I thought building a pool would be challenging in the design and calculation aspects. However, I find it very challenging seeking/managing subs. Also, I've realized OBs are the last on their priority list. So I guess my build is waiting till the end of season. When is the end of Season BTW? Aug-Sept?
 

Geebot

Well-known member
Aug 19, 2013
851
Wrangling subs is a full-time job. I dealt with these scheduling nightmares (and unfulfilled promises to show up on site) in a previous career and it led me to the point where I'll gladly pay someone to take over the task on any work I need at home. It's cheaper than counseling and a divorce.
 

MinerJason

Bronze Supporter
Jan 29, 2018
256
Tucson, AZ
Question on pumps,

I hear a lot about Variable Speed everywhere. It seems I might not need one. If the pump is rightsized, and the pump circuit is only used for filtration (no features, spas etc). Then the water flow is constant, no need vary speed. The pump will run continuously and the flow is sized for 24-hour turnover, constantly filtering and sterilizing. Does filter backwashing run at a different speed?
First, the idea that pump sizing or run time needs to be based on turnover has been shown to be a poor indicator of actual pool performance. Read more on that here:
Determine Pump Run Time - Trouble Free Pool

Running a larger variable speed pump at a low setting is more efficient and uses less electricity than running a smaller single speed pump. As part of my recent pool remodel I replaced a 1HP single speed pump with a 3HP variable speed pump. I run my pump at a very low speed (900 rpm) the vast majority of the time. I'll crank it up briefly to 1,750 or 1,900 rpm for vacuuming, running my water feature, back washing, or quick skimming before a pool party if there's debris floating, but otherwise it runs on low. With my plumbing and filter size the pump is oversized, and there's no need for me to ever run it at full speed (3,450 rpm). I've actually programmed the pump such that it never exceeds 2,000 rpm, but I bought it because it's much more efficient than a smaller pump would be. The electricity cost to run my variable speed pump 24/7 is about $0.36/day, which is significantly less than the single speed pump running 6-8 hrs a day.

SWCG systems require a lot of pump run time (they can only produce chlorine when the pump is running), so to reduce excessive costs from running the pump a lot most people pair them with a variable speed pump. This way the pump can run 12-24 hrs a day at a speed just high enough to engage the SWCG flow switch at a very low electrical cost.

Another way to help your pump run more efficiently is to reduce the head loss in the system by using larger diameter plumbing and keeping the plumbing runs as short and simple as possible.

And yes, backwashing is best run at a higher speed to really flush out the debris. Vacuuming is another task that is best performed with a higher pump speed, but this can be avoided by getting a robot pool cleaner instead of manual vacuuming or suction/pressure based cleaners. To meet your efficiency and automation goals I'd strongly encourage you to look into robot cleaners.
 
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mad_diy

Gold Supporter
Jun 2, 2019
9
Dripping Springs, TX
Now I am on the hook for real...

Submitted paperwork to obtain county permit, we live outside of city limits in the unincorporated area, the permit should be easy. One pool builder we went to see earlier told us - the county doesn't even come out for inspections. Yay! last thing I want is inspector in a bad mood nit-picking on my project. Also, since we don't have to wait for inspections, I could schedule subs tighter, and my boss (the kiddos) are very onboard with that idea haha.

I have already entertained myself calling a few subs, just to get an idea what is like talking to them... and sure enough.. there is Pool Contractor jargon.., "Pool Dig", "Shoot a pool" etc. Anyone got a dictionary? lol

Anyhow, things are moving along... I will keep posting the progress as things will start happening.
 

SBall

Well-known member
Jun 27, 2017
234
Nashville, TN
There is a decent amount of information about "natural" pools that use a variety of sand, gravel, and a large number of water plants to clean the water. They still need some sort of pump though.
 

mad_diy

Gold Supporter
Jun 2, 2019
9
Dripping Springs, TX
Couple of updates....

Things are starting to heat up,

Got my building permit issued today! wheeew, big one!. That was a bit nerve racking having architects looking at my drawings, having never drawn an architectural drawing to scale I was quite a bit inconfident when submitting it. I was afraid they'd come back to me with something like "Who drew this? Has a structural engineer approve it?". But no, I actually received a few compliments. Feels good.

Next big thing is HOA, they are holding a meeting in a week, but I am not too concerned. However, they might fuss if they want to, everyone knows HOAs... just keep that BBQ coming to the neighbor who is also a member of the HOA ARC committee haha.

Now... the most difficult part, the SUBS!!!

I've starting gathering bids for the different phases of the project, and navigating referrals can be a daunting task. Keeping track of who refers who, interviewing them and making sure the you don't get them all confused and piss them off. I am actually drawing a tree of referrals as it grows, because its impossible to keep track different texts with bids on my phone alone.

I loosely plan to begin excavation early august. I would love to do it sooner, but my wife will have a birthday soon, I don't think its a good idea having Hoeram shaking the house all week :). And then, we are off to a 2 week vacation, coming back end of july. I don't think I will rest at all, I will just count down to the day of day of the dig!

Anyhow, that's the update and I hope to start posting progress pics and videos as soon as the action begins. BTW, I want to buy a camera that would allow timelapse videos of some sort, something waterproof with a good battery life, what would you recommend?


to be continued...